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Green building agenda in 2011

The Green Building Council of Australia’s advocacy work on behalf of members certainly yielded results in 2011. 

Priority 1: Provide visionary government leadership

All tiers of government now have programs and policies to support Green Star-rated building.  Many jurisdictions have developed well-defined policies that guide whole-of-government strategies to encourage sustainable building, covering efficient use of energy, water and materials. 

Priority 2: Retrofit and improve existing buildings

The Tax Breaks for Green Buildings program commences in July 2012, with $1 billion of incentives for improvements in the energy efficiency of existing buildings; the GBCA has been a part of the program’s roundtable and provided input since the beginning.

We are involved with the City of Melbourne’s 1200 Buildings program, and are a partner of the City of Sydney’s Better Buildings Partnership. We have also been highlighting the opportunities represented by the Green Star – Performance rating tool, which is currently under development, and which is being sponsored by Sustainability Victoria, together with NDY, Brookfield Multiplex and FMA Australia.

The release of the NSW Environmental Upgrade Agreement Template for commercial and industrial properties is a clear demonstration of the NSW’s Government’s commitment to green leadership, while the Victorian Government is making great progress with the Sustainable Melbourne Fund.

Priority 3: Green education and healthcare facilities 

More than 120 education projects around Australia are either registered or Green Star certified.  The Tasmanian Government has committed to reaching 5 Star Green Star benchmarks for all new schools and healthcare facilities.

Our first Green Star healthcare facility, Flinders Medical Centre – New South Wing in Adelaide, was certified in 2011, closely followed by the Weipa Hospital in Far North Queensland.

The Queensland Government has demonstrated strong commitment to green education facilities, with a range of schools either certified or registered to achieve Green Star ratings.

Priority 4: Move beyond buildings to communities and cities  

All three levels of government are working with us as sponsors of the Green Star - Communities project, including every state government land organisation in Australia and the federal government’s Major Cities Unit

We have been discussing sustainability indicators for buildings and communities with federal, state and territory, and local governments alike.

Priority 5: Embed green skills across all industry training 

Conversations with every level of government are highlighting the importance of promoting green skills and the value of green skills to the new green economy; the Queensland Government has funded the Green Star Foundation course for students and apprentices across the state.

In addition, the GBCA has hosted free Green Star introductory courses for government officials in every capital city across Australia, as well as Green Building Summits which are focused on embedding skills in all states and building capacity based on localised skill levels.

The Green Building Council of Australia is actively engaged with all three tiers of government and is tailoring its advocacy strategy to each level of government to get the best outcomes for Australia’s built environment. 

“At the federal level, one of our most successful policy ‘wins’ has been the federal government’s commitment to the $1 billion Tax Breaks for Green Buildings program, which is scheduled to commence on 1 July 2012,” says the GBCA’s Executive Director – Advocacy and International, Robin Mellon.

“At the state level, our focus is on ensuring state governments choose Green Star for all their major public projects, particularly schools and hospitals. An impressive number of Queensland Government schools aim to achieve both Design AND As Built ratings.  The South Australian Government has demonstrated inspiring leadership by developing the first Green Star healthcare facility, Flinders Medical Centre – New South Wing in Adelaide.

“State governments are increasingly recognising that choosing Green Star not only demonstrates environmental leadership, but also makes the best use of taxpayer dollars, demonstrating financial savings for the lifetime of the building,” Mellon adds.

At the local government level, the GBCA’s focus has been on one-on-one relationship-building.  Many local governments are already recognising the benefits of building green.  The GBCA has 36 local government members, who are using Green Star to transform their new and existing buildings, and reinforce their commitment to a more sustainable future. 

The project manager on the City of Gosnells’ Green Star Civic Centre redevelopment said the reason for choosing Green Star was plain and simple: “We have a commitment of fiscal responsibility to our rate payers. That’s why we decided to build green.”

In 2011, the Green Building Council of Australia also published the Local Government Guide to Green Star which was designed to increase local government engagement with the environmental rating system.

“The GBCA’s Local Government Task Group is encouraging the uptake of voluntary rating tools, offering practical advice and assistance and educating councils on best practice measures implemented by similar organisations around the world,” Mr Mellon says.

“Our advocacy team is committed to helping our governments to become ‘green change agents’ and to lead the way in the adoption of sustainable building and eco-friendly business practices,” Mellon concludes.